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McGuinness - Threats to Irish schools unacceptable

26 January, 2007

Former Education Minster Martin McGuinness has said that any attempt to undermine the viability of Irish and Integrated schools is totally unacceptable.

Mr McGuinness said:

"There were clear reasons why I took the decision, when I was Education Minster, to introduce specific viability criteria for the Irish and Integrated sector. These are under developed educational sectors that had been starved of support by successive British direct rule administrations. The Irish language suffered systematic discrimination and attack. I also believed that in the interests of protecting and promoting parental choice
that the decision had to be made.

"There are serious concerns that under the clock of declining student numbers that the Department of Education will undermine parental choice and particularly Irish medium schools.

"Sinn Féin is seeking an urgent meeting with Maria Eagles to discus this issue and also the implications of the approach adopted by Ms Eagles and Peter Hain to the implementation of the Bain Review.

"The loss of hundreds and hundreds of schools, particularly in rural areas, will have a devastating impact on the communities they serve. I believe that we need a flexible approach that looks at all schools on a case by case basis and that decisions are taken on the basis of the educational interests of our children and young people." ENDS

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